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Presidents Cup format again comes under scrutiny

Hunter Mahan of the U.S. (L) shakes hands with International team captain Nick Price of Zimbabwe after he and Brandon Snedeker defeated Inte
Hunter Mahan of the U.S. (L) shakes hands with International team captain Nick Price of Zimbabwe after he and Brandon Snedeker defeated Inte

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - The future of the Presidents Cup and a possible change to its format emerged front and center on Sunday after the United States beat the Internationals for an eighth time in 10 editions of the biennial team competition.

There has been a groundswell of opinion that the points structure should be overhauled for the event to survive and Internationals captain Nick Price has championed the need for the more compact Ryder Cup format to be adopted to ensure closer competition.

Though Price was reluctant to speak out on the topic on Sunday, preferring instead to focus on the brilliant play of the American golfers at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the debate on the merits of a format change is likely to run and run.

"I've been pretty open about what I believe should happen with the event and I don't think that's changed," said Adam Scott, who has never been on a triumphant Internationals team despite playing in the Cup for a sixth time this week.

"But our rally this week in a couple of the sessions, and particularly today (in the singles), showed how much fight we've all got in us. We all wanted this badly, and nine-and-a-half (points) is almost an unobtainable task.

"We kept it very interesting today. All of us up here are champions and we wanted to be champions, and we gave it a good shake," said the Australian, this year's Masters champion.

The Internationals had faced a daunting task going into the concluding 12 singles matches, requiring 10 points to pull off a miracle comeback, but they exceeded most people's expectations by winning seven-and-a-half against a potent U.S. lineup.

Asked whether there were any changes he would like to see with regard to the Presidents Cup format, Price replied: "Oh, yes, there's lots of changes I would like to see but I don't think we should discuss those now.

"Let's let the Americans enjoy this win and let's look to the future as to what we can do to make this perhaps more competitive."

NEED FOR SURVIVAL

Just over two months ago, however, Price had made his feelings very clear on the subject in an interview with Reuters, saying that the Presidents Cup simply had to adopt the Ryder Cup points structure in order to survive.

A total of 34 points is on offer at the Presidents Cup, which pits a 12-man team from the U.S. against a line-up of international players from outside Europe, while 28 points are available at the Ryder Cup, where the U.S. take on Europe.

"In order for the Presidents Cup to really go to the next level, it's got to become more consistently competitive," Zimbabwean Price said in the interview. "That is what's lacking.

"Until such time as that happens, I don't want to say it's going to flounder but it's not going to get to the next level. And everything needs to get to the next level to survive."

Price, a veteran of five Presidents Cup as a player, has long felt that the Ryder Cup format of four fourball matches and four foursomes encounters on each of the first two days before the concluding 12 singles is more desirable.

"When you've only got four pairings and you've got 12 guys to choose from, that's a lot easier because you take your best players," said the 56-year-old, a three-times major winner.

American Davis Love III, last year's U.S. Ryder Cup captain and an assistant this week to U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples, expressed a different viewpoint.

"We all think it's a lot of fun," Love said of the Presidents Cup after the U.S. team was presented with the trophy by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

"We like this format. It's something different. You know, you can't hide any guys, and everybody gets to play, and it's always worked out well for us. I think it shows how strong our team is, so it's a fun format.

"I like this format and I like the Ryder Cup format. I think it works out well to leave both of them like they are."

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Simon Evans)

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